News / Middle East

Head of Arab League Mission Reaches Syria

A young Syrian Kurd protests outside the Arab League offices in an eastern neighborhood of the Lebanese capital Beirut on December 25, 2011.
A young Syrian Kurd protests outside the Arab League offices in an eastern neighborhood of the Lebanese capital Beirut on December 25, 2011.

A Sudanese general arrived in Damascus Sunday to head an Arab League observer mission to Syria, as the country's top opposition leader urged the group to bring the United Nations into the effort to stop the government's bloody crackdown on dissent.

General Mohammed al-Dabi traveled to Syria after meeting Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby in Cairo, where he outlined a "road map" for the mission's work. A group of 50 more monitors is expected to arrive Monday.

In a video message broadcast Sunday, Paris-based Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun said the league should step up pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by asking the U.N. Security Council to adopt the Arab initiative.

Russia and China have blocked efforts by Western powers to use the Council to condemn the Syrian government and impose sanctions on it for continuing the crackdown.

Ghalioun also called on the league to send observers to the besieged city of Homs and other locations where government troops are intensifying a bloody crackdown on dissent.

Syria agreed to the 150-member observer mission under pressure from the Arab League, which wants to monitor Syrian compliance with a plan requiring the government to end its deadly suppression of a nine-month pro-democracy uprising.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA that pro-Assad forces killed at least six people in Homs on Sunday in shelling and shooting attacks. It said government forces also killed three people in the northeastern town of Deir Ezzor.

London-based Observatory spokesman Mousab Azzawi said Syrian military helicopters were flying over Homs to try to locate the signals of satellite phones used by local activists to inform the rights group about the crackdown.

It is not possible to independently verify casualty figures in Syria because the government bars international journalists from operating freely in the country.

The United Nations estimates 5,000 people have been killed in violence linked to the uprising since it began in March with protests against Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. Syria says "armed terrorists" are driving the revolt and accuses them of killing 2,000 security personnel during that period.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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